GOOD ground at Warwick in January is pretty much unheard of, yet that is what we’re faced with tomorrow for the course’s highlight of the season, the Classic Chase (3.00pm).
In 2017, One For Arthur took this 3m5f prize at a widely disregarded 14/1 – just a few months later he won the Grand National at the same price.
It is highly unlikely that this year’s National winner is lurking in the 13-runner field, although there are some decent horses lining up and the ground makes things interesting.
As does the presence of the 158-rated Un Temps Pour Tout, who on ratings is the best horse to run in this for a long time.
He is having his first start over fences since winning his second Ultima Handicap Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and it’s going to be a very tough ask off such a high mark.
Plenty of other trainers will be delighted that David Pipe has declared his 10-year-old and I’m focusing on two towards the bottom of the weights.
DUEL AT DAWN ran at this meeting 12 months ago when second behind Ms Parfois in the Listed Hampton Novices’ Chase.
The winner went on to be beaten just half a length in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and was then second again in a Grade One at Aintree.
That form is strong and you have to forgive Duel At Dawn being pulled up in the four-miler as he picked up a knee injury.
I thought he ran a good race on his reappearance in last month’s Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock before understandably getting tired.
Interestingly, for the past two seasons, he has won on his second start by 16 lengths each time.
Admittedly they were in two and three runner fields, but he clearly strips fitter for his reappearance and he looks well-handicapped here off a mark of 137.
The trip has to be a slight doubt as he has only attempted further than 3m½f once. However, he shapes like a stayer and it may well be that he improves for the extra distance.
The 7/1 generally available looks a fair each-way price with just 10st 5lbs on his back.
There have been a few upsets in this race over the years and CROSSPARK could cause another one at a massive 16/1 with Ladbrokes.
Caroline Bailey’s nine-year-old was fourth in last year’s renewal off a similar mark with Gina Andrews in the saddle, but Harry Skelton seems to hold the key to him.
He has sat on him eight times and won four, an impressive strike rate considering the horse has five wins to his name from 21 career starts.
Having slipped to a mark of 124, the pair ran away with a 3m2f handicap chase at Uttoxeter in November, coming home 16 lengths clear.
That unsurprisingly led to a big hike in the weights, but he is now on 135 having been 136 a year ago, so he certainly isn’t badly handicapped.
Robbie Dunne was on board last time when he was fifth in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby over Christmas and Skelton takes over tomorrow, having also won a handicap hurdle on him at Southwell in early December.
Stamina is a slight question mark, as he seemed to run out of steam 12 months ago, but he was keen that day and if Skelton can get him settled this good jumper can outrun his odds.
I’m hoping it’s a good day at his local track for Skelton because I’m keen on MERCER’S TROOP who he rides for his brother Dan in the opening handicap hurdle (12.40pm).
He was well backed at Plumpton last month on his first start after wind surgery and may well have won if he hadn’t made a mess of the last.
The handicapper has left him on the same mark of 100 and I’m convinced he’s better than that.
Mercer’s Troop 12.40pm Warwick
Duel At Dawn e/w 3.00pm Warwick
Crosspark e/w 3.00pm Warwick